by Nicole Austin, contemporary (2007)
Samhain Publishing, $4.50, ISBN 1-59998-684-1
Jesse's Challenge is somewhat different from the usual contemporary romances featuring cowboys in that this one takes the cowboy out of the ranch into the big city. Yes, instead of the heroine making her way from the city to the ranch, this time around hero Jesse Powers is the one who leaves his ranch in Montana and everything he knows to brave the scary city lights of Denver. The poor dear feels so out of place in his business suits and he is completely at loss trying to place an order from a fancy menu in a restaurant.
But fortunately for him, he gets to play with himself in the evenings as he spies on the woman in the apartment across from his changing clothes. You can take the redneck out of Hicksville but you can't take Hicksville out of the redneck, that's for sure. But when the woman catches him watching her, she doesn't mind at all. Maybe she's his long-lost cousin who had moved to the city a long time ago.
Kate Brooks first noticed Jesse spying on her on the same day that she was in a bad mood after having to deal with a boss who was into sexual harassment and movers who ogled at her openly. But I suppose Jesse spying on her and playing with himself was different because he was good-looking. Since then she has called her Peeping Tom "Tom" (how creative) and plays along by frequently giving him a free show. The things a silly woman can do just because the guy is cute, I tell you. What happens if this fellow is a psychopath? What's to stop him from thinking that it's okay to bring a big knife over and knock down her door one day?
When she takes orders from her friend over the phone to put on some kind of striptease thing for Tom at the start of this story, that's when I know this story is set in an alternate reality of sort. It is not as if Ms Austin is unaware of her characters' stupidity. She has Kate saying that should "Tom" turn out to be a psychopath, she's going to blame her friend for... I don't know, for Tom leaving her dismembered head in the dumpster, perhaps.
"Shit, this is so hot. I'd love to see the look on his face and what he’s doing."
Clearly somebody needs to go out or least watch pornographic films more often.
When Jesse decides to come over and visit after that free show, only then does this very stupid friend of Kate flies into a panic. I tell you, with friends like these, car crashes and train wrecks are going to be rendered obsolete. Because he is hot and is a genuine cowboy in Kate's eyes - plus, Kate estimates that Jesse has a nine-inch monster in his pants - Kate is more than happy to get to know Jesse better. However, Kate also believes that she does not have time for a committed relationship since she wants to move up the career ladder so there may be a problem there.
It is really too bad that this story relies so much on sex scenes that characterization is nearly non-existent. This is also one of the rare stories where the heroine doesn't have to choose between her job and her boyfriend as Jesse ends up telling her that he will live wherever she wants to Coupled with the hero being the fish out of water instead of the heroine, Jesse's Challenge could have been more interesting than it actually is. The set-up of the story is really stupid. I know the author wants to create a voyeur-themed fantasy, but the way she sets up the whole thing is ridiculous. Likewise, Kate's friend Tink is so annoying here that I would have happily given this book a keeper grade should Ms Austin have Tink getting run over six times by a truck. Every appearance of Tink is guaranteed to make me cringe because she is truly irritating as a dumb creature who causes so much inanity to happen in the story.
With the story being the pits, Jesse's Challenge will be better off with readers who will find the high number of sex scenes to be ample compensation for the silly story and threadbare characterization.
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